With the window to change your mind on CAO preferences closing on July 1st, Catherine O'Connor, author of 'Cracking the College Code', explains these small steps to ensure that you choose the right course for you.
Sometimes it can be hard to transition from secondary school to third level. It can be scary and daunting experience to meet new people and adapt to new surroundings. 
 
While parents and friends can help you prepare for this change, Catherine O'Connor Education Consultant at Trinity College and author of 'Cracking the College Code' explains these small steps to help make your college experience as successful and as rewarding as possible. 
 
Research
"The first thing they need to do is research courses that interest them in depth, leave no stone unturned," Catherine recommends. 
 
While researching the various course programmes and modules online is very useful, Catherine emphasises that first hand accounts are also a great insight into helping you choose a particular course.
 
"Getting in contact with the college itself, talking to people in the community, speaking to a career guidance counsellor in your school, people who are in the course right now or even chatting to your friends and family. Speaking to people in your wider network can help you in your decision."
 
Preference
"They must record their interests in order of genuine preference in their CAO," Catherine stresses. It seems that she certainly has a point as the website findacourse.ie also advises that a student's choice be based on genuine career aspirations, rather than on assumed results.
 
Work Ethic
"Developing a strong work ethic in secondary school and carrying it into 3rd level and maintaining it will greatly benefit you during your time in college," explains Catherine.
 
Organisation
"Date your notes, take notes during your lectures, rewrite them after your class and file everything away in a systematic order," Catherine advises. 
 
She also emphasises that being organised will help you succeed and reach your full potential, and stresses that all your work must be backed up. While computers and modern technology may crash or let you down, she recommends that when all else fails, there is always the old fashioned method of using your pen and paper!
 
Know Yourself
"It is very important that you get to know yourself better. Realise where your strengths and weaknesses lie and take these into account when you are making your choices," advises Catherine.
 
Recognise available facilities
"It is vital that students are aware of the various facilities that are available to them in their chosen college," stresses Catherine. 
 
Whether it is academic or personal, becoming familiar with facilities and services such as the library and the counselling service will be greatly beneficial during your time in college. 
 
She also emphasises that students need to understand themselves and realise when they may need to avail of certain services or to ask for help. 
 
While the start of a new chapter in your life may be an intimidating prospect Catherine advises that we should take responsibility and be independent. "It's your education and it's your destiny," she concludes.
 
Cracking the College, a practical guide to making the most of the first year college experience,  is available at all bookshops and at www.crackingthecollegecode.ie
 
For more information you can also email info@crackingthecollegecode.ie.
 
Photo:audio-luci-store/ Flickr